Xerxes has watched Jessica for a long time, unable to approach her after clouding her memory when he rescued her and her parents in a scuba diving accident. Fate has brought them together, like star-crossed lovers but she doesn’t quite remember him. For now he leaves it that way – but again Fate steps in….
She brushed out her long hair leaving it loose and took time to apply a light amount of eye make-up, and some lip color. Thanks to a natural glow from the Florida sun, blush wasn’t needed. Instead of shorts, she slipped into an airy sun dress with a snug bodice, a full skirt and a comfortable pair of medium heeled sandals. Jessica grabbed the keys to her mother’s Lexus instead of her Jeep.
Vigilant to close and lock the middle door between the house and the garage, Jessica activated the security system. A false break-in signal, reported several days before, resulted in a complete check of their system. It was found to be functioning perfectly. The company that managed their alarms thought a door might have been slightly ajar and the sensitive monitors sent an intruder alert.
Jessica eased the luxury car out of the garage and drove toward Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens. Back home from school, she enjoyed being in comfortable places, she knew as a girl. The area had changed from an upscale community into a thriving metropolitan city. The area was still home, however, she liked the slower pace as it had been during her childhood. Maneuvering through traffic to the mall, she parked next to a handsome black Porsche Boxster convertible. Jessica took a moment and admired the powerful sports car before she went inside to shop.
* * * *
Xerxes completed his responsibilities to Kallias Enterprises, Inc. The Earth based upper-world Company that helped support Atlantis’ financial base. Taxes in Atlantis were minimal. Kallias Enterprises provided a large part of their overall monetary needs, and a portion of the city’s income came from off-world commerce and light tourist visitors. Under the guise of a delivery to a small tourist hotel on a northern Bahamian Island, he arranged the transport of various items for the population of Atlantis’ use. One of the benefits his father set up, and he continued for their people, was to provide upper-world items, not only of necessity but also luxury.
As the upper-world progressed in the New World after the Revolutionary War period, the rulers of Atlantis made covert investments for the under-world city. Now Atlantis was a wealthy conglomerate known as Kallias Enterprises. Xerxes, as High Lord of Atlantis, held the position of C.E.O. of the company, and, as were his sister and brother, United States Citizens. His younger, half-brother Ainu, Xerxes had turned over rule of Pacifica to when he came of age. Their sister Alena enjoyed serving as off-world ambassador for both city-states. His brother and sister held positions on Kallias Enterprises’ board though their identities were concealed from the general public, as was his.
Xerxes, a practical man, was sure Jessica would find her way into the secrets of the pyramid. Preparations to bring her to Atlantis as his wife were ready. Such a situation wasn’t unusual over the history of his realm. Atlanteans often used this solution, despite Marcus’ opinion, murder was rarely employed. Fulfilling his formal responsibilities to Kallias Enterprises, Xerxes took time to stop at Gardens Mall to shopping for his bride’s trousseau. She wouldn’t have the opportunity to do this simple chore for herself.
Xerxes’ tall, good looks and masculine physique drew the attention of the lady shoppers he passed. Long accustomed to such stares, rarely did he notice them. Current affairs on his mind were enough to occupy his thoughts, the security of his people more pertinent.
Destiny, already involved in both Xerxes and Jessica’s lives played her next hand when they passed. Their gazes briefly met. The natural spark crackled between them as it had the day of their first meeting, stopping them in their stride. Each captivated by the other for what seemed a brief moment forced the other shoppers to maneuver around them. They stared into each other’s eyes like star crossed lovers. Time passed.
“Excuse me.” Jessica murmured in a light daze and continued on to finish her shopping.
“Of course, my pardon.” Xerxes replied in perfect, unaccented English. He enjoyed the confused look that crossed her beautiful face and moved away, fearful she might remember him.
Ducking into a shop directly across the wide mall corridor that obscured him by artificial fountains and waterfalls, he watched her shop. He could see clearly what she looked at and what she bought. Waiting until she left, he ventured into the women’s lingerie’ shop and carefully questioned the sales clerk about the items she purchased. Applying his natural charm to allay the clerk’s concerns of his motives, he explained he was the lady’s fiancée and wanted to surprise her by acquiring what Jessica had admired but hadn’t bought.
After smelling the perfumed soap she preferred, he decided he agreed with her choices and acquired a quantity of the bath supplies for her later use. He also procured several of the spicy intimate items she had admired, but failed to purchase, wondering why she hadn’t obtained the items. She could certainly afford them but seemed shy about the scanty night garments and under things. Instead, she chose more conservative items. Xerxes wasn’t shy about buying these things for her. He looked forward to her wearing them.
On an earlier expedition, he obtained her size by entering her parents’ home in Jupiter when he knew no one was there and looked through her things. A little guilt plagued him about that sortie, but it was the only way he could be sure to get her correct sizes.
Jessica finished her shopping, Xerxes observed as she left the mall following her to her car, parked next to his Porsche. He waited until she drove away.
That was a bit close!
Their confrontation strained his control almost to the breaking point. The desire to touch her face was nearly overpowering, and the chance meeting left him more aroused than he was willing to admit. Remembering her warm eyes gazing up into his would cause him many sleepless nights, starting with this one. Nevertheless, until the time and the situation was right, he couldn’t hope to control Jessica or the circumstances. She was a strong-willed woman not easily persuaded. Since their first meeting, when their gazes had locked, he felt their destinies become interlocked and was sure their souls were. Long ago Xerxes had admitted to himself, he loved the fiery redhead, though he hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time with her. He sensed she felt the attraction that linked them when he rescued her and her family and judging from her lack of male companionship, beyond associates in her field, convinced him.
He hoped his personality and controlling, omnipotent position in Atlantis would put him in a situation to gain her trust and love, not by intimidation or coercion, but by honor, principles, and logic. However, it was imperative to have Atlantis’ security in a stable situation to do this.
Fighting the loneliness and arousal that crept up on him, Xerxes slipped into the leather seat of his Porsche and drove to the marina to return to Atlantis. More pressing matters of a traitor in his midst were waiting, and the steps already begun to contain him.
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